How Does a Microwave Work?


Quick Answer

A microwave bombards food with waves of energy, causing water molecules in food to vibrate and heat up. These waves, which only affect polar molecules, can pass transparently through most cooking vessels. The resulting heat or steam cooks the food much faster than traditional cooking. This is because the heat comes from everywhere in the food at once instead of working its way in from a heating element.

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Full Answer

Since microwave cooking relies on boiling water, any food cooked in a microwave cannot reach temperatures beyond around 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, food cooked in a microwave does not brown. A microwave is therefore unsuitable for cooking raw meats or other foods that need to reach higher temperatures.

Many microwavable products include an instruction to leave the dish sitting in the microwave after cooking. This is not only due to the fact that freshly microwaved items are very hot, but it also allows the food to sit in the sealed, steam-filled microwave and finish cooking. Removing an item too early may leave the food insufficiently heated.

The microwave was discovered by Percy Spencer in 1945. He was working on a piece of radar equipment when he noticed that the emitted energy was melting a candy bar in his pocket.

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